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Weekend Reading on Women's Representation October 13th, 2023

Dear Readers,

This week, RepresentWomen released a new brief! We are committed to identifying the best ways to increase women’s political representation, drawing from evidence worldwide. Part of our work leads us to closely track the outcomes of parliamentary elections and compare outcomes from year to year. Between 2021 and 2022, 85 countries had elections; we identified 43 elections where women reached record highs for their representation in parliament. 

This led us to create our latest brief titled “Golden Year Analysis: Record Wins for Women in Politics Worldwide (2021-2022),” demonstrating which countries saw increases in women's representation in their recent elections and what allowed this to occur. This analysis reinforces the notion that well-designed and enforced gender quotas are one of the most powerful mechanisms for improving women’s representation rapidly. 

We were able to determine that, of the 43 countries that achieved a golden year, 72% of these countries use a form of gender quotas, 65% use either a proportional or semi-proportional voting system, and 58% of the golden year countries use both. This finding further supports RepresentWomen's conclusion that the most effective way to increase the representation of women is to implement a proportional voting system with a gender quota.

The U.S. can no longer be held back by fear of change. Other countries are routinely succeeding in achieving gender-balanced governance, and the U.S. would benefit by learning from its global neighbors. 

Local Women Speak On Challenges In Political World

Santa Cruz County’s need for greater diversification in office and the obstacles women of color face when running and serving in politics was the topic of conversation at the discussion hosted by the Democratic Women’s Club. As highlighted in RepresentWomen’s Impact Analysis of NYC’s Woman Majority Council, women’s issues become a priority when women are in power. Discussion on diversifying public office is vital so that our democracy reflects everyone's needs. Aiyana Moya, journalist for Good Times, reports on the panelists' main discussion points. 

Four women sat on the panel: Monica Martinez, who is running for County Supervisor in District 1; Santa Cruz City Council member Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, who is an Iranian immigrant; former Watsonville Mayor and council member Rebecca Garcia, who is Latina and former Capitola Mayor and current council member Yvette Brooks, who is also Latina…

There are many deterrents that keep women—and particularly women of color—from running for office. These include male-dominated political networks, access to funding, and internalized racism. Some of the suggestions to make politics a more even playing field included changing campaign financing, workshops offered for women of color to understand their trauma, and conscious support from white women….

Garcia, along with some of the other women, echoed one consequence of these kinds of encounters: developing a tough skin, or as Garcia put it, becoming a conchuda. But, they all credited these incidents in part to a greater dedication to paving a path forward for future generations…

“When I came out when I was 18, that’s the first time I experienced what it was like to not have a voice,” Martinez said. “And now I feel like that’s one of my greatest missions, to give voice to those who are most in need.” 

 Dr. Claudia Goldin wins the Nobel Prize in Economics for Research on the Gender Pay Gap

Dr. Claudia Goldin, a Harvard professor, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, Jeanna Smialek reports in the New York Times. She is the first woman awarded the Economics Nobel alone and the third woman overall. Dr. Goldin’s extensive research continues to profoundly influence labor economics, particularly on the impact of women in the workforce and the importance of gender equity.

Dr. Goldin received this prestigious award based on her research on female employment, namely the causes behind the gender wage gap and the evolution of women in the workforce. Her findings show that closing the gender wage gap has been uneven historically, and recent progress has stopped. Further, Dr. Goldin and colleagues discovered that the wage gap widens between men and women in the same jobs, most notably after childbirth.

Dr. Goldin said in an interview that she hoped people would take away from her work how significant long-term changes are to understanding the labor market.

“We see a residue of history around us,” she said, explaining that societal and family structures that women and men grow up in shape their behavior and economic outcomes.

“We’re never going to have gender equality until we also have couple equity,” she said. While there has been “monumental progressive change, at the same time there are important differences” which often tie back to women doing more work in the home…

Asked about what it meant for a woman to win the economics award on her own, Dr. Goldin said it marked a sort of “culmination” after years of “important changes” toward more gender diversity in the field.

Lessons From Countries That Have Achieved Gender Parity

In a recent article published by the World Economic Forum, Ian Shrine highlighted the countries that have achieved gender parity in politics, including Mexico, Rwanda, New Zealand, Cuba, Nicaragua, and the United Arab Emirates. As noted in the article, structural reforms such as gender quota laws and proportional representation systems were beneficial in advancing women's representation in many of these nations. 

However, structural reforms can only do so much. It is equally necessary for leadership to take deliberate action to increase gender diversity, such as recruiting more women into politics and channeling more women into positions of power. These findings are consistent with RepresentWomen’s “Golden Year Analysis,” released earlier this week. 

“Deliberate leadership for gender inclusion is important,” Rwanda Development Board CEO Clare Akamanzi told a panel at the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact Meetings 2023. “My president will make sure when he’s appointing cabinet, women are represented.

“Once he told us a story of how people he asked to give him names for female appointments would tell him, ‘I can’t find women’. He would say, ‘Fine, I’m not in a hurry. Whenever the women show up, I’ll make the appointment’. And women showed up the following day – because they’re there. Someone just needs to be very deliberate about including them.”

But it’s more than just a question of quotas. Hard work is needed to sustain progress.

“It is critical to promote networking among women in politics and to support cross-party networks of women and women’s parliamentary caucuses, as these can help channel women’s interests and concerns and can help to mainstream gender in policy development and government oversight,” says former Country Director of UN Women Rwanda Fatou Aminata Lo, now Country Director for Zimbabwe… 

Progress still needs to be made on gender parity and getting more women into positions of power. Legislation is critical to helping correct some of these imbalances, as many countries are realizing. But attitudes need to change, too – seeing more women in leadership roles is one way to do that.

Women on the New York City Council Making Progress for All New Yorkers 

RepresentWomen’s own Research Associate, Steph Scaglia, wrote a terrific piece published in The Fulcrum this week on her brief titled Impact Analysis of NYC’s Woman Majority Council. We are grateful to our allies and partners at VoteMama and The New Majority NYC for sharing their insights on our work. 

New York City’s women majority council provides a high-profile example of how impactful women’s representation is. Having a city council with members who have shared lived experiences with their constituents allows for all voters, especially those who are often marginalized, to have a voice.

“We know that legislators legislate based on their lived experience, and now, thanks to RepresentWomen's research, we can point to the tangible impact that the women-majority New York City Council has had on policy.

– Liuba Grechen Shirley, CEO and Founder of Vote Mama

In New York City, a woman majority has had a significant impact on the areas of reproductive health, maternal health, and mortality, childcare, pay equity, menstrual equity, and supporting survivors of domestic violence. This council has also expanded COLA by $100 million for nonprofit workers and expanded Promise NYC, a service that provides childcare services to undocumented families, by $16 million…

“More women in power means more progress for New Yorkers. When our government looks like our city, then the issues that matter get addressed. This report gives us the reason to keep going, and proof that the women-majority is not just about hitting a number, but about creating a positive impact on the City.”

– Jessica Haller, Executive Director of The New Majority NYC

Last but not least, Friday the 13th falls on the spookiest month of the year. What better way to celebrate than to rank your favorite horror movies? Let us know your favorites with this ranked choice poll!

That’s all for this week. Enjoy your weekend!

-The RepresentWomen Team


Don’t forget to check out the full recording of “Victories Through Coalition Building,” an American Democracy Summit panel featuring our National Partnerships Manager Victoria Pelletier!

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